To a degree, CBCo's winter seasonal release has followed a set path: high in alcohol, dark in colour. Yet the brewers have been given relatively free rein to play around within that space. The 2022 Inquest looked to Scotland courtesy of the addition of some smoky peated malt; the previous year, they upped the hops for an American-inspired imperial stout. And here, for 2023, while it's still an imperial stout with a double digit ABV, they've taken another fork in the road.
The most obvious difference is the use of French oak chips; the liquid was only aged on them for four weeks but it's an approach that tends to make an impact rather quicker than pouring beer inside a barrel. The makeup of the malt bill presumably eased up on the darker, more heavily kilned variants compared to past iterations too: even from the pour there's hints that this is a lighter affair than many of the imperial stouts to have landed at Crafty Towers this winter. With its ruby glint and soft, sandy head, it could almost pass for a porter.
First impressions carry through too: its sweeter, fruitier and more dainty than 10 percent ABV stouts have any right to be (if such a thing can ever be said to be dainty). The union of oak chips with Crystal and chocolate malts brings to mind Milo, albeit one in which you'd been liberal with the spoonfuls of powder, while the aforementioned fruitiness sits somewhere between raisins and lighter molasses, and perceived bitterness – even with a stated 65 IBUs – is minimal. While at the sweeter end of the style, it's far from cloying so you'd not call it a pastry or dessert stout; I'd suggest instead it's the sort of imperial stout you'd want to serve alongside dessert: a companion piece that won't demand all of the attention.
Published July 26, 2023 2023-07-26 00:00:00